Only, the thing is...these people are predominately white, middle to upper middle class, educated, and have a significant amount of power and privilege because of those things. And it is because of those things that I have to speak out. As a person who is also highly educated, white, and of significant financial means (among other markers of power) it is my duty to call people out on their racist behavior. It's my duty to make space for people to feel uncomfortable with their word choices, it's my duty to stand on the side of the oppressed.
"But Alex!", you might say, "Tribe is not just a word to describe Native Peoples...it also is used to describe the 12 tribes of Israel, it's used in Sub-Saharan Africa to describe communities of people, hell! It's the name of the fans of the Cleveland Indians. It's perfectly acceptable for us to use it".
Only, you're wrong.
Maybe you want to argue that it simply means a social grouping of like minded people.
See, words have power. Anyone who has ever been bullied knows this. Words mean things. In North America, our association with the word "tribe" is not primarily talking about ancient nomadic peoples, nor is it to describe communities of African Nationals (though, in that context to, there is often much imperialism and romanticizing that happens in regards to the word). In North America, for hundreds of years, tribe has been used to describe communities of Native Americans.
So, when we just take over the word Tribe to describe our own white bourgeois communities we are once again playing into the oppressive system which has, for centuries, been treating Native Peoples as if they are even lower on the ladder of humanity than our sisters and brothers of black skin or brown skin or yellow skin. We are once again appropriating a culture that does not belong to us and using it because it is trendy (how many halloween costumes did you see this year where people were dressed like racial stereotypes, including Indians?) and we have no place in doing that. We can learn from Native Peoples, we can accompany Native Peoples, we can begin working to reconcile with Native Peoples...but we can never even start those processes if we KEEP taking what is culturally theirs.
Especially as people of faith, we need to consider our use of language in regards to all people, but especially Native People. If we continue to steal language in the way our ancestors stole land and lives, we are playing into the sin of racism just like they did. So, we can keep on sinning in our "Lutheran Tribe" or we can work to put an end to our sins, and to the oppression of Native Peoples around the country and world.
My friend Meredith eloquently said of Christ Followers:
We, as white people, have the power to choose whether or not we allow hateful language that makes people feel like they're being told they're worthless. As a Christ-follower, I sure as hell don't want someone to feel defeated because I was too good to stop using a word that hurt them. Find another word to describe a collection of people.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge what I perceive to be what is happening with this phenomenon. It seems to me that people want a word to describe themselves and their community. I think even more than that, people want a community. So, let's figure out a different word and not take one that doesn't belong to us, culturally speaking. And beyond that, let's actually build community among our neighbors. But, regardless of the intention of the term's use...let's please find another one.
We took their Land and we took their Lives...let's not continue to take things from Native Peoples.
(a disclaimer-I realize this is not an all encompassing blog post...feel free to comment at your will, but if you attack me or other people, I'll have to pound on you)